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Golden bamboo is a popular name for Phyllostachys aurea, one of the most common bamboos found in the United States. A very fast-growing plant, golden bamboo was first introduced into the US in the late 1800s as a cash crop. It has spread from the original area of introduction in Alabama and can now be found as far north as Virginia, south to Florida and west as far as Texas, as well as in California and Oregon. In some of the warmer parts of its range in the United States it is now classified as an invasive pest plant.
At an average height of 18 to 25 feet (5.5 to 7.6 m), golden bamboo is a medium-size bamboo. It is very fast growing and can grow almost anywhere in USDA zones 7-10 that offers adequate moisture, as long as temperatures do not fall below 0°F (-18° C.) The leaves are narrow, only 1/3 to 3/4 of an inch wide (about 1 to 2 cm) while reaching 6 inches (about 15 cm) in length. Golden bamboo rarely flowers, sometimes not for decades, and spreads by rhizomes and side shoots. While it prefers full sun, golden bamboo will grow wherever it receives sunlight, even in sparse forest areas.
The culms, or stems, of the plant reach a diameter of 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 cm.) The word “golden” in the common name of the species comes from the warm yellow color the culms turn when exposed to the sun. Bamboo culms grow in sections, called internodes. Those of the golden bamboo are short and swollen, often growing in a distorted and gnarled fashion, which adds visual interest.
During the late 1800s, and the first half of the 1900s, golden bamboo was often harvested commercially for use as fishing poles, walking sticks, and plant stakes, and for use in making furniture. It is so well-suited for use as fishing poles, particularly for surf fishing, that a second common name for the same plant is fishpole bamboo. More recently, it has been used mainly as a landscape plant, especially to create dense screening and noise barriers quickly.
In Florida, golden bamboo is classified as a category two invasive exotic plant pest. Control measures where it is invasive include limiting or completely eliminating horticultural plantings, using herbicides, and mowing or cutting stands. The plant easily returns from the root, so control measures must be repeated over several growing seasons.